Parties generous in handing out protection money to members' nonprofits ({{commentsTotal}})

Helir-Valdor Seeder (Pro Patria), Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE), Jüri Ratas (Centre) and Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria).
Helir-Valdor Seeder (Pro Patria), Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE), Jüri Ratas (Centre) and Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria). Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Taking a deeper look into the list of recipients of political parties' protection money* in 2019, it appears as though a significant portion thereof will be going to nonprofits connected to party members.

The list of recipients of the protection money being distributed by the three coalition parties includes sports associations, village societies, schools, kindergartens and churches. Of the three parties, Centre and Pro Patria are the most generous toward churches, earmarking funds for the renovation of a whole host of houses of worship; the Social Democratic Party (SDE), meanwhile, will be supporting the renovation of just a few.

It stands out, however, that parties are not planning on missing the opportunity to use allotted protection money to give a boost to their members' nonprofits.

For example, one of the Centre Party's largest planned financial contributions, totalling €100,000, is to go to the nonprofit Tööstuspark Intec-Nakro, one of the two board members of which is a member of the Centre Party — Narva city councilmember Fjodor Ovsjannikov, who has been convicted of corruption.

Centre's contribution of €50,000 to the nonprofit Voore made the news last year as Voore board member Kristjan Sakk is partners with Centre Party member Ekri Savisaar. The nonprofit is slated to receive another cash injection from the ruling party, which has earmarked €17,000 for the development of a 3D marketing platform for manors.

Another €50,000 in operational support has been earmarked for the Estonian Tenants' Union, on the board of which serve Centre Party members Urmi Reinde and Heimar Lenk.

€12,000 is to go to the nonprofit Talendipank, the board of which includes Centre members Sten-Erik Jantson and Tiina Jantson. According to its annual report, the nonprofit organises beauty pageants.

The Viisu Village Society, on which serves Centre Party member and Paide City Council chairman Aivar Tubli, is to receive €20,000 for the reconstruction of a park.

The Centre Party has also earmarked €5,000 for Jõgeva Hospital, whose director, Peep Põdder, is not only a member of the party himself, but the personal doctor of former longtime Centre Party chairman Edgar Savisaar.

Pro Patria, Social Democrats to support their own as well

Of Pro Patria's protection money, €100,000 is to go to the nonprofit Konstantin Päts Museum with the aim of erecting a monument to Päts. Three of the nonprofit's five board members are members of Pro Patria, including Trivimi Velliste.

€50,000 is going toward the development of the cooperation network of the Society of Villages of Taheva Municipality. This nonprofit's sole board member, Monika Rogenbaum, is a member of Pro Patria. Another €50,000 is to go to the nonprofit Rõuge Sports Club, two board members of which, Jaak Pächter and Oliver Ossipov, are likewise members of Pro Patria.

The nonprofit Kalev Yacht Club, whose board includes Pro Patria member Kalev Vapper is to receive €25,000 for the renovation of its port infrastructure. The Jaan Tõnisson Institute, whose sole board member Andrus Villem is likewise a member of the party, is to receive the same amount.

Pro Patria member Tiit Salvan serves on the board of the nonprofit Toila-Ontika Merekuurort, which is to receive €23,000 for community facilities and €10,000 for solar-powered bus station lighting.

The Hiiumaa Heritage Society, on the board of which serves Pro Patria member and local municipal council member Tiit Harjak, is to receive €15,000 for the planning of a local War of Independence monument.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE), meanwhile, has earmarked €36,000 for the Tartu County Farmers' Union, whose director is SDE member Jaan Sõrra. Another €45,000 is to go to the Tilsi Stadium Foundation, whose board includes SDE member Sirje Tobreluts.

The Tartu County Central Folklore Association, whose board includes Social Democrat Ants Johanson, is to receive €10,000 for the renovation and purchase of premises. The nonprofit Väike Väin Society, on whose board serve SDE members Andres Hanso and Heiki Hanso, is likewise to receive €10,000, which is to pay for an environmental analysis.

The Tartu County Central Folklore Association, whose board includes Social Democrat Ants Johanson, is to receive €10,000 for the renovation and purchase of premises. The nonprofit Väike Väin Society, on whose board serve SDE members Andres Hanso and Heiki Hanso, is likewise to receive €10,000, which is to pay for an environmental analysis.

Also to receive €10,000 each are the Vaiatu Village Society, whose board includes SDE member Mati Kepp, Sõmerpalu Care Home, whose sole board member is Social Democrat Lenhard Ermel, and the Estonian Nordic Walking Union, whose board includes SDE member Rein Randver.

Opposition not nearly as keen to do the same

No such striking ties were detected in the recipients of the opposition parties' financial contributions. The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) divided its total of €300,000 evenly between the Hille Tänavsuu Cancer Treatment Foundation, the Estonian Women's Shelters Union and the Tartu University Hospital Children's Foundation.

The Free Party had a total of €227,000 in protection money to distribute, and only one recipient, the nonprofit Pelgulinn Society, had party members also serving on its board. The neighbourhood society is to receive €8,000 in support for the purchase of inventory as well as operational subsidies.

The Reform Party rejected its portion of protection money.

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*This distribution of funds referred to in Estonian as katuseraha — protection money — goes back to the 1990s. A certain amount of money was reserved to be allocated at the discretion of the Riigikogu's members to satisfy different parties' interests. The arrangement is still in place, discussed towards the end of every year, and acts as a sort of grease in the process of getting a majority for the state budget bill.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla



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